Freezing temperatures have triggered the first cold weather payments in Britain this winter.

Those eligible for cold weather payments get £25 for each seven-day period when the average temperature is, or is forecast to be, below zero degrees Celsius between 1 November and 31 March in a particular area.

This comes at a time of rising energy bills, as all the big six firms have either put prices up or have announced future hikes.

Since 1 November, the cold weather threshold has been met in eight areas across Scotland: Aboyne, Aviemore, Braemar, Eskdalemuir, Loch Glascarnoch, Salsburgh, Strathallan and Tulloch Bridge.

Households in Bainbridge, Fylingdales, Redesdale and Shap in northern England also qualify. In Wales, people in Sennybridge, near Brecon, are due payments.

Loch Glascarnoch, in the Highlands, has qualified to receive cold weather payments three times already this winter. Some areas have qualified twice.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb says:"Winter can be a difficult time and I want to ensure the most vulnerable people know about the support that is available to them.

"Cold weather payments of £25 provide real help when the weather bites. People shouldn't have to worry about turning up the heating when temperatures plummet."

Who is eligible?

Around four million people are potentially eligible for cold weather payments, if the temperature dips sufficiently in their area. Over two million of these are are pensioners who receive pension credit.

Those on income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance or income-related employment and support allowance are usually also eligible as long as they meet certain other criteria, such as having a child under five living with them. To register, contact Jobcentre Plus.

You don't need to claim cold weather payments – they're paid automatically. If you're entitled, you should receive your payment within 14 working days after the period of cold weather.

In addition to cold weather payments, most pensioners will also receive winter fuel payments of up to £300. See the Winter fuel payments MSE News story for more details.